Review: The Castilian Pomegranate by Anna Belfrage

An enraged and grieving queen commands them to retrieve her exquisite jewel and abandon their foundling brat overseas—or never return.

Robert FitzStephan and his wife, Noor, have been temporarily exiled. Officially, they are to travel to the courts of Aragon and Castile as emissaries of Queen Eleanor of England. Unofficially, the queen demands two things: that they abandon Lionel, their foster son, in foreign lands and that they bring back a precious jewel – the Castilian Pomegranate.

Noor would rather chop off a foot than leave Lionel in a foreign land—especially as he’s been entrusted to her by his dead father, the last true prince of Wales. And as to the jewel, stealing it would mean immediate execution. . .

Spain in 1285 is a complicated place. France has launched a crusade against Aragon and soon enough Robert is embroiled in the conflict, standing side by side with their Aragonese hosts.

Once in Castile, it is the fearsome Moors that must be fought, with Robert facing weeks separated from his young wife, a wife who is enthralled by the Castilian court—and a particular Castilian gallant.

Jealousy, betrayal and a thirst for revenge plunge Noor and Robert into life-threatening danger.

Will they emerge unscathed or will savage but beautiful Castile leave them permanently scarred and damaged? 

My Review

If you remember from the first book in this series, our protagonists had to leave the country or get into some serious trouble for harboring the “little Welsh lad”…the heir to the recently executed Prince of Wales. It was Edward’s queen who instructed them to leave, and gave Noor an assignment: recover the famed Castilian Pomegranate, thought to ease the birthing process and ensure a healthy child. Unfortunately, it had been stolen by Queen Eleanor’s sister in-law—not an easy person to recover it from. But at least Noor had another reason to travel to Castile: she had land of her own in the old country—land she knew nothing about until recently. And she also had a living relative: King Sancho, who didn’t know of her existence. Nonetheless, Noor and her husband were traveling as ambassadors—for lack of a better word—of the King of England, which helped ease their introduction to the higher ranks of society. For the most part, at least. They got off to a rocky start when a band of badly-led mercenaries tried to abduct and rape Noor, and poor Robert—her long-suffering husband—paid the price of saving her. He lost a couple of fingers and gained custody of the inexperienced leader Fernand, who proved to be quite a millstone around his neck.

They did things a little differently in this part of the world, and, like it or not, Robert and Noor were obliged to adapt to a great host of new customs:

“Men and women do not eat together in a public Muslim establishment,” Nuño said. “How are the women to eat without unveiling themselves? No well-bred Moorish lady allows a man other than her closest family to see her face.” It made Noor feel immodest, and discreetly she adjusted her veil so as to swathe her face in the folds of sheer fabric. Nuño smiled in approval. “Much better—at least as long as we are here in Valencia.”

Even though our protagonists wanted nothing more than to return to England, they were obliged to make the best of it. Warfare was constant and Robert had many demands on his strong arm, which helped make up for the fact that he felt very much like he didn’t belong in this strange environment. Noor was a better fit, partly because she looked the part, partly because she spoke the language and mostly because of her relationship to the king. A little jealousy here and there served to spice things up between our lovebirds, but throughout you knew their relationship was solid and their affection unwavering. What more can a reader ask?

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Meet Anna Belfrage

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. 

Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.

The Castilian Pomegranate is the second in her “Castilian” series, a stand-alone sequel to her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain, a world of intrigue and back-stabbing.

Her most recent release prior to The Castilian Pomegranate is The Whirlpools of Time in which she returns to the world of time travel. Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode!

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

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